Beginning with the Revolution and the early 1800s, American society has taken a greater interest in wildlife preservation. Legal wildlife trade in the United States of America is completely controlled and set up by states and their individual governments and how they see fit. However, like all aspects of American life, the federal government is capable of stepping into wildlife affairs when deemed necessary or crucial. It is also implied that the wildlife in each state is the property of the state it resides in.
The USDA’s involvement in wildlife regulations revolves mainly around the administration of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA prevents illegal animal fighting practices, controls the sale and transportation of domestic animals, and prevents harm against pets. Veterinary officers and animal care inspectors from the USDA randomly perform inspections on sites and facilities registered and noted under the AWA. USDA officers utilize the AWA’s regulations and standards to assess the hospitality of each individual facility.
If the veterinarians or inspectors find nothing outside of the AWA regulations at the facility, the site can continue working as it did prior to the inspection. However, if the regulations are found to be broken, the USDA can set a timeframe for the establishment to correct those extremities. If the location is still incapable of meeting those regulations, the USDA can step in to set more serious penalization.
Passed over fifty years ago, the AWA does not protect all living creatures. Animals that are not susceptible to the protection of the laws include amphibians, reptiles, birds, and most farm animals, among others.
CITES, short for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, is an international organization/agreement that prohibits all trade of endangered species that may place the animal or plant in harm’s way. While the AWA regulations only protect a minute group of animals, CITES protects over 37,000 species, saving millions of specimens from unjust, inhumane exploitation.
Among the world’s most brutal trading systems is that of Brazil. Overexploitation and failure to meet ethical regulations have caused endangerments or even extinctions of certain species in the region. Most of the animals that are utilized in these trades are specifically captured and hunted from the Amazon rainforest and Tapajos river.
Birds, snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and mammals are most utilized in Brazilian wildlife transactions. Traded for their feathers, skin and eggs, birds are treated brutally and viciously when handled by traders. Poachers and other hunters prize reptilian skin, killing helpless reptiles to obtain their unique, tough coverings. Brazil is home to 95% of trades involving mammals in the Americas, whether it be small rodents or endangered species such as primates.
Of all the species involved in wildlife trades, a great majority are significant for maintaining order and tranquility in the ecosystem. Known as keystone species, the plants and animals that hold the environment together are vital in protecting entire ecosystems. Agoutis, a species of small rodent that resides in the Amazon, is a particularly important keystone species. Agoutis help to spread Brazilian tree nut seeds across the forest, helping to repopulate and rejuvenate the ecosystem when necessary. Without agoutis, the ecosystem would fall apart. However, due to illegal and illegitimate trade, species including the agouti are now endangered, putting the entire balance of the ecosystem in jeopardy.
If removed from the Amazon forest, the population of Brazilian nut trees would fall rapidly. This would create a scarcity in food sources for animals that feed on the seeds, leaves and nuts of the trees, possibly causing endangerment for these species as well. The effects of any animal or plant extinction would be devastating, but the effects of a keystone species’ extinction could wipe the entire ecosystem.
Evidently, wildlife trade regulations are foreign to Brazilians traders; animals and plants are exploited for their benefits without fear of extinction or endangerment.
Possible solutions for illegal wildlife trade could be to mimic the regulations and laws set elsewhere in the world. Brazil could follow the AWA laws set in America to protect its vast wildlife and to set an example for other nations that are rather undeveloped regarding wildlife preservation. With more and more serious regulations, trade can be slowed or even completely eradicated over time. Furthermore, locals could start petitions and movements to advocate for rights and demand that change be made. Civilians need to step up and demand change themselves, taking initiative instead of watching more and more species inch towards extinction.
It is time to take a stand. It is time to step up and to protect the wildlife. These creatures were here before us and deserve the respect and hospitality we give to other human beings. Change needs to be made.